Hooping changes people for the good.
Owner and Instructor at Superhooper.org
Before I started hooping, I was working as a property manager. During that time, I got into three different car accidents within a very short period and I went to therapy here and there but never fully recovered. So I started gaining weight; I was up to almost 300 lbs. And I started losing a lot of my friends because I couldn’t catch up with everybody and go out and do things because I would just be too tired or too much in pain. So I would literally go to work, come back home, and repeat.
One day my friend drags me out. We went to a Shpongle concert in Hollywood, and the first thing I see are these dancers on stage and they’re hooping. It’s so sexy and it looks like they’re swimming in the hoop. It’s so effortless. When I got home, I thought… I can’t do it. I can barely move; no, there’s just no way. So, four maybe five months go by and my friend drags me out to this festival called Lightning in a Bottle and my friend brought her really big hoop with her. I remember I was sitting on the grass and I was watching her hoop, like, that looks like so much fun. I really want to try it, but I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to hoop where people could see me. So, another two months go by after that and I finally just committed and bought my first hoop on Etsy. It was a naked hoop, I think it was the cheapest one, and I just taped it with electrical tape. I practiced in my living room for two hours a day for an entire week. It took me one whole week to keep that darn thing going around my waist. It was so hard! I didn’t have proper instructions… it’s more self-taught than anything. I did watch some YouTube videos here and there but it didn’t really help too much so I’m like, ok, I know the general idea is to spin it and move. Finally, once I got it around my waist and I was moving and I was keeping it up, I couldn’t stop. And I noticed that my body started changing – I started having more energy, my stamina was increasing, my balance, and I just felt a lot more alive.
I continued to hoop for two hours every day until I felt comfortable enough to start bringing my hoop to work. We had this really big presentation room in the corporate office; I would bring my hoop to this presentation room when it wasn’t being used and practice during lunch. People started being interested in it and saying, “Oh, can I try it?” I kind of taught them what I knew, and they said, “How do I get one?” I’m like, “I can make you one!” I didn’t know how to make one at the time, so I go onto YouTube and I’m like, “Ok, that seems easy enough…” I made 60 hula hoops for my office in a span of four months. It was really exhilarating.
After almost about a year of hooping, I discovered this event called Hoopcamp Retreats. It’s a three and a half, four day event with hoop workshops all day and an LED jam at night. The first time I went, I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m self-taught, these people are probably professionals, but no, as soon as I got there, everybody was so supportive and welcoming and there were so many new people there and I levelled up tremendously. When I got back, I thought, “Ok, I’m going to create a business out of this.” Just like that. I’ve already made hoops for my coworkers, I can make hoops for people, so I opened up my first Etsy shop and started making hoops.
On the weekends, I would create hoop jams, or spin jam events. I’d create an event on Facebook and would bring in between 15 to 30 people at a park, where we would just have a picnic and hoop. Every Sunday or Saturday I would have these jams and created this awesome community. There were times when I would have 30 people at the park; I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I did this, I brought everybody here. It’s awesome!”
I bought my first LED hoop from a different company which I won’t mention, and it stopped working within a month or so. My boyfriend’s really handy, so he fixes it and he’s like “You know, I can make you a better one.” That was the start of us making LED hoops. I was already making and selling day hoops on our site, so we started making LEDs and within a short period, Superhooper, which is the company that I have now, contacted me. Superhooper was based in Wynona, Texas, and they started in 2002. They noticed us on social media; we were rising pretty quickly because of our unique LED hoops. They contacted us to collaborate and they asked if we’d like to do some of their fulfillments, their drop ship and stuff, and then within less than a year they gave us an offer that we couldn’t refuse… they offered to sell the business to us.
I was so scared. I love my parents so much but they haven’t really been supportive in almost anything that I’ve decided that I wanted to do. When I told them that I wanted to quit my good-paying corporate job to make plastic circles, my mom’s like “No! No, no, no, you can’t.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m going to.” I remember crying on the phone with her and I remember hanging up and just crying in the conference room like, “What am I doing what am I doing what am I doing… is this it, should I do this?” There was a lot of going back and forth. After I was done crying… bottom line at the end of the day, I was really excited. This is what I need, this is what I want, it’s being handed to me on a silver platter, it would be silly for me to not take that risk. After talking with my boyfriend and getting his support, it went by so fast. I think we spoke with them, with the family in Texas, in September, made plans with them to see them on Thanksgiving, which was three years ago, and as soon as I came back here I put in my two weeks. And the beginning of December was when we started. December 8, actually. It was really scary but exciting. I remember when we first moved in here, I was like, “Oh my god, we have our own place! We made this happen!”
When I teach, at least for beginners I try not to give them too much instruction. It’s a hoop. It’s a circle. I tell people, look at this, how would you manipulate it? How would you spin it around your body? I feel like giving too much instruction at first will really confuse people.
For beginner classes, I’ll start them off as basic: how do you waist hoop, how do you waist hoop one way, how do you waist hoop the other way, how do you save the hoop from falling when it’s on your waist and you feel like it’s dropping, how do you pick it up, how do you speed up your body so that it speeds up the hoop and keeps it from falling… there’s this fun Shakira hip-bump that you can use. And also bringing movement to your body, not just standing there and waist hooping, but walking with it – walking forward, walking back, walking around in circles, moving your arms around. So we’ll start to build off of that.
Practice makes progress. And not being so hard on yourself. Everybody learns at a different pace and everybody has a different style – don’t compare yourself to other people because that would just limit you and stop you from progressing. For three or four classes, we worked on movement meditation to just bring more awareness to your body. I try my best to tell people this is a safe space… just let go, just let go, but it’s hard to get people to that state. It’s challenging. I overcame that with hooping. I started hooping and I felt confident enough to start going to the parks and bringing my hoop to work in less than a year. I really feel like, you know, when people just put in the effort and practice they can overcome that fear.
I feel like 98% of it is stress and anxiety and the rest is pure enjoyment. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would never go back to a 9-to-5 job. I’ll be real: yeah, it’s crap sometimes, actually a majority of the time. I think that’s very important for people to hear. But it’s the way you handle it, it’s you bouncing back, “Ok, this isn’t working, how do I do it differently?” I don’t believe in failure. It’s just life telling you you need to go in a different direction and try something different. It’s never easy. Never, never easy. I remember the first year, I cried almost every single day. I’m not joking! I would cry every day, every night, like “What am I doing, I don’t know…” I didn’t have a business background, other than my little little hoop business where I was making like maybe $500 a month. And now I’m making so much more and I guess I didn’t think about how big this business was and could be. It was just so much at once. I literally hit the ground running and dragged for a while… it was so rough the first year, and even part of the second year. After about a year and a half, I’m like, ok, now I need to start balancing out my life. I think my turning point was when I discovered how to meditate, practicing mindful meditation, having space for myself, away from the business, away from people and my boyfriend. That’s really given me the strength to continue. So, I don’t cry every day. I haven’t cried in a while.
What I’m finding with the newer businesses is that they’re selling hoops at a very low cost. Which I feel like might be hurting us a little bit. It is what it is. So we kind of backed off from supplying, not because of that reason, but we’re refocusing our business and our higher profit margin is LED hoops now.
Making an LED hoop can potentially take four hours. For one. And then sometimes we get between 50 to 80 LED hoop orders. We don’t sleep! It’s a circle with lights and tape and it’s so simple… but no! My boyfriend and I work until three, four o’clock in the morning sometimes – especially during the holidays.
My boyfriend and I made our first fire hoop – this was years ago – I don’t think we would ever do it again because it’s a lot of work. We made one with six wicks and normally you use four to five. The wick itself, it’s Kevlar and it was about two inches, so when we lit it up, the fire was so big. Like, “Ahhhh! It’s so hot!”
So, we’re coming up to our third year anniversary and I am in the process of looking at what’s next right now. I’m ready to take it to the next level… I want to grow this business. Of course when you have a business you want to expand. My goal is to bring in production people, shipping people, so that I can start teaching more workshops locally or around the world. I’m really excited to see what next year will bring us.
I was never this outgoing or talkative. I was very shy, afraid to talk to people; I still consider myself an introvert. But I’ve flipped completely. I’m a whole new person. Five years ago, if you met me… I don’t know. I would not be talking to anybody. I always like to tell people that hooping really saved my life, physically and mentally. I went from being overweight to not having any friends to being in better shape and now I have this whole community that I can turn to. Not just locally, but around the world. I ship to Australia, Spain, Israel, and if anybody asks me “Oh, do you know a hooper in Thailand?” Sure. I know so many hoopers on every continent. We’ve sent to Antarctica!
I can wake up in the morning and use my creativity to strengthen my community and make a living off of it. I can’t say that about the other jobs I’ve had in the past where I worked for somebody else where they had me do things by the books and I can’t branch out and bring my own creativity to things. I’m sure there are a lot of jobs that do do that, but… I was in the banking industry for six years and then I was in property management for eight years so it was very cut-and-dry.
I feel like hooping is not only good for the body and mind, but it’s also good in life in general. A hula hoop is a great tool to get you through hurdles, through problems. I really feel like it helps with problem solving. Especially when my students quit their dead-end jobs or get away from this abusive relationship, or out of a toxic environment. Hooping changes people for the good. I really believe that.
Check out Melissa’s YouTube channel at: www.youtube.com/user/blackorchid0913/videos